Basic Electrical Tools | Tool Lab | Ask This Old House

Share it with your friends Like

Thanks! Share it with your friends!


In this video, This Old House master electrician Heath Eastman walks us through his favorite electrical hand tools that all DIYers should own.

SUBSCRIBE to This Old House:

Master electrician Heath Eastman explains the hand tools every homeowner should have in their DIY electrical kit. Heath shows us the voltage testers, special screwdrivers, pliers, and wire strippers that most homeowners should keep on hand, and even shows us how to use them on a basic home electrical repair.

Homeowners Need the Right Tools
Most homeowners don’t need a wide assortment of electrical tools because the jobs they handle are rather limited. However, there are some projects that DIYers are capable of handling, as long as they have the right tools. Projects like replacing a light fixture or changing out a receptacle require a simple yet complete set.

Voltage Testers []
Before a homeowner or DIYer works on any electrical circuit, they need to ensure that the circuit is de-energized and safe. The tool for this job is a voltage tester, and they come in two main forms: plug-in and non-contact. Plug-in models are most useful when replacing devices on a circuit, but non-contact testers are universally helpful, as they can test for voltage in almost any device or wire.

Regardless of the device, they both work similarly. Once on and used to test a device, they will beep to indicate that the circuit is still energized.

Multi-Bit Screwdrivers []
The first type of screwdriver that a homeowner should own is a multi-bit screwdriver. These models have several bits all housed within the tool, allowing them to switch the tip for whatever screw they’re facing. They also have nut drivers built-in for fastening or loosening the most common nut sizes.

Standard Screwdrivers []
DIYers should also have some basic straight-shaft, standard screwdrivers. Phillips and straight blades are the most common types. They’ll use these for electrical cover plates and other harder-to-reach fasteners tucked away where a multi-bit driver won’t fit.

Torque Screwdriver []
Homeowners should consider a torque screwdriver, as well. These models have adjustable settings that the user can dial to the proper amount of torque. Once the screwdriver feels the set amount of resistance on the fastener, it will “pop” to indicate that the user can stop tightening. This can be essential to avoiding stripping hardware or breaking devices.

Wire Strippers []
DIY electricians should own a pair of wire strippers. These tools have cutting edges that not only cut the wire to length, but also slice through the jacket on a set of wires or the insulation on an individual conductor, exposing the copper wire underneath. They’re also helpful for bending hooks in the ends of pigtails (short pieces of wire connecting the device to the electrical wire) for secure connections.

Needle Nose Pliers []
Needle nose pliers are also a good addition to a tool kit. These pliers make bending hooks in the ends of pigtails a breeze, and they’re great for snugging the hooks up around the terminal screws. Also, they almost all have heavier-duty cutting teeth than a standard pair of strippers, so they’re able to cut through thicker materials.

Where to find it?
Heath explains what tools he uses and how he uses them when replacing an electrical receptacle. He shows the right way to use wire strippers to strip back the insulation jacket on wires. Then he uses needle-nose pliers to “hook” the end of the wire in order to wrap it around the terminal screw. Heath then uses a special torquing screwdriver to tighten the screw to the correct tension.

Looking for more step by step guidance on how to complete projects around the house? Join This Old House Insider to stream over 1,000 episodes commercial-free:

Plus, download our FREE app for full-episode streaming to your connected TV, phone or tablet:

Tool Lab:
Tool Lab is a series that features unbiased reviews and objective tests of new and noteworthy tools. In addition to reviews and testing, we’ll also be producing user guides, buying guides, and tips and tricks for getting the most out of tools. Tool Lab is geared towards those with pro-level experience or interest—those who are new to the trades, have been working in the trades, as well as advanced DIYers who want to know what pros know and want to perform at their level. Be sure to catch new reviews and content each week on or on YouTube.

Follow This Old House:

Basic Electrical Tools | Tool Lab | Ask This Old House


Richard de leeuw says:

not one insulated screwdriver

Jeremy McClanahan says:

if you have to watch this to see what tools you need, you probably should not work on your electricity

xoxo2008oxox says:

I use WAGO connectors which are code-compliant, and recommend Fluke for Meters, Klein for most Elec tools and Knipex for their insulated combo lineman-strippers. Also, white PVC elec tape and perm marker or reuse the trimmings from 12-2 romex as sleeve-labels. Lastly, get a small electrician-specific tool belt-pouch for just the electrical tools. Makes it easier when working around the old house and garage to have it all on you. Oh and never use the backstab feature of the receptacle-that is more for builders in a hurry and over time, those will pop out as I have had to do many homes for this problem.

sorphin says:

and.. their linked torque screwdriver is actually a torque wrench.. not quite the same and wouldn't be as convenient for this purpose…

Painmaster212 says:

I thought you had plenty of wire length to work with before you added the extras 😂

Anthony Blythe says:

14yr cable guy here. You can find the multi screwdriver from 5-in-1 to 10-in-1, always handy. I prefer a larger dual crimp stripper, it works on any size wire without having to know and choose which size it is. I did learn something, the bent tabs and in/lbs torque for electrical, as we tighten to 20. Would love an in depth in house networking tutorial, many new housing tracts come with pre-wired CAT-5 (or better) but not terminated or terminated to phone that no one uses.

If you're going to buy & install your own coax & connectors, use compression, it's just better.

saeed sobhani says:

Where and how to get job with all these tools?

kingssman2 says:

Another DYI tool is a breaker finder. Plug into a live socket and trace back to the electrical box

Obwan Kenobi says:

I noticed that when you used the plug in electrical tester you only tested the bottom of the outlet.
Some outlets are split and usually controlled by say a switch. In this case the metallic tab on the side of the outlet is broken off creating in effect 2 separate outlets.
You could have the bottom half off and the too half still live. I always test both plugs in the outlet just to be sure.



Stephen Brown says:

Licensed in multiple states and that has been more valuable than a university degree. Please note that a Fluke multimeter is a great tool – got several at pawn shops at big savings! Nice video!

Write a comment